The book is written by a team of psychologists who use terms like "high leverage behaviors" and it splits infinitives all over the place, but if you turn a blind eye to that and concentrate on what's being said, I think it is worth reading. It teaches persuasion strategies applicable to a family member, or a small group of colleagues, or rebellious youngsters, or a whole nation. What I have gleaned from it is the following:
- Before embarking on your campaign, do some thorough research into what is required and what is most likely to be effective.
- Listen very carefully to the people you want to change and keep their stories in mind, so that they'll respect you.
- Enlist the help of experts and trustworthy acquaintances.
- Enlist the help of the whole community, especially the help of popular and respected community leaders.
- Nagging never works. (That's true!)
- Offer praise for progress, however small the steps forward, instead of criticism for backsliding.
- Tell success stories for encouragement, the more subtly the better. (The book gave examples of TV soap operas being used as a deliberate means of influence, without the watchers realising.)
- Contrive to make desirable behaviour appear satisfying.
- Don't threaten the people you'd like to change ... or only as a last resort, giving fair warning, in which case you must not fail to follow through when they do misbehave.
- If you offer rewards for better behaviour, make sure the rewards are imaginatively chosen and appropriate.
- Be specific about what you want people to do, one step at a time, rather than lecturing them vaguely about aims and future outcomes.
- A pep talk, however inspiring, isn't of much use unless it's followed by assistance and firm discipline.
- It helps if you can harness the persuasive power of peer pressure.
- Change the immediate environment to make it less easy for people to be tempted into detrimental behaviour (e.g. by hiding bars of chocolate from your husband when he's trying to lose weight and giving him smaller plates to eat off).
- As a would-be persuader, believe that change is possible and don't pray for serenity too often.
- Don't give up. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and try again.
Having regurgitated all the above points, I wonder if we should always be aspiring to influence * other people's habits and attitudes.
Maybe the only person you can really change is yourself.
* I am aspiring to persuade the Loblaws supermarket chain to provide stools for their cashiers to sit on. I told Emma that, which is why she sent me the book.